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General Sherman's Christmas: Savannah, 1864

Weintraub, Stanley

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Historian Stanley Weintraub, author of Silent Night, combines two winning topics —Christmas and the Civil War —in General Sherman’s Christmas, new from Smithsonian Books. Focusing on the holiday season of 1864, when General Sherman relentlessly pushed his troops across Georgia to capture Savannah, General Sherman’s Christmas includes the voices of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict and is illustrated with striking period prints, making it the perfect holiday present for every history buff.

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From the Back Cover:

From the author of the bestselling Silent Night comes a close look at the embattled holiday season of 1864, when Major General W. T. Sherman gave President Lincoln the city of Savannah and paved the way for the end of the Civil War.

General Sherman's Christmas opens on Thanksgiving Day 1864. Sherman was relentlessly pushing his troops nearly three hundred miles across Georgia in his "March to the Sea," to reach Savannah just days before Christmas. His methodical encroachment of the city from all sides eventually convinced Confederate general W. J. Hardee, who had refused a demand for surrender of his troops, to slip away in darkness across an improvised causeway and escape to South Carolina. In freezing rain and through terrifying fog, equipment-burdened soldiers crossed a hastily built pontoon bridge spanning the mile-wide Savannah River.

Three days before Christmas, the mayor, Richard Arnold, surrendered the city, now populated mostly by women, children, and the slaves who had not fled. General Sherman then telegraphed to Abraham Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton."

The fight for Savannah took place as its inhabitants were anxiously preparing for Christmas. Weintraub explores how Christmas was traditionally fêted in the South and what remained of the holiday to celebrate during the waning last full year of the war. Illustrated with striking period prints, General Sherman's Christmas captures the voices of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict, as they neared the end of a long war.

About the Author:

Stanley Weintraub is a historian, a biographer, and a professor emeritus of the arts and humanities at Penn State University. He is the author of Silent Night: The Story of the 1914 Christmas Truce and General Washington's Christmas Farewell. He lives with his wife in Newark, Delaware.

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